Googling Past the Graveyard

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

January 21, 2006

I don't like the thought of Dick Cheney ogling my Googling.

Because what I'm Googling, of course, is Dick Cheney. I have to constantly monitor how Vice Voyeur is pushing the federal government to constantly monitor millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls, e-mail notes and Internet searches.

If you want to know why the Grim Peeper is willing to turn this country into a police state to take his version of democracy to other countries, just do a Google search under "antiterrorism," "government snooping," "overreaching" and "fruitcake."

It was hard to know which story yesterday was scarier: Osama bin Laden, still alive and taunting the U.S., or the Justice Department's trying to force Google to turn over a suspiciously broad array of information on millions of users' searches and Web addresses, supposedly to investigate online crime involving pornography.

The Internet is full of vile diversions, but prying without justification is just as vile. Innocent Americans - not just lonely guys in their boxers - could be swept up in the fishnet dragnet. Who decides what is porn? Will those who Google to find out-of-print copies of Lynne Cheney's juicy, cheesy lesbian Old West novel, "Sisters," be suspect? (The cheapest copy at Alibris.com is $195.)

When Fox News asked him about the fresh Osama audiotape, Mr. Cheney sounded like Mr. Moviefone. "Probably low production values," he said.

Osama may not have graduated to DVD's, but he has stayed alive, despite W.'s threat way back in the era of dial-up connections to smoke him out and hunt him down.

Officials first indicated that the U.S. had killed Ayman al-Zawahiri in a bombing in Pakistan last week - or at least his son-in-law or a friend of his son-in-law, or maybe the guy who delivered a kabob to him. Yesterday, Al Qaeda released a tape of Zawahiri's greatest verse hits - poetry for jihadists - like "Tears in the Eyes of Time." What rhymes with mujahedeen? Antihistamine?

None of the Bushies' actions in defiance of law and convention, none of the money or blood spilled in Iraq, have helped these so-called tough guys get the one guy they really need to get. That is truly galling.

W. and Vice don't even act upset about Osama's still being on the loose. Having played down his significance after they missed their chance to get him in Tora Bora, they continue to act as if it's no big deal when he hurls more threats.

Torquemada Cheney was torturing logic again in a speech to a conservative think tank in New York. "Some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein, we simply stirred up a hornets' nest," he said. "They overlook a fundamental fact: we were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway."

Yeah, Dick, because they weren't in Iraq, either.

The fact that federal snoopers are all over reporters, monitoring their phone calls, shows the sorry state of our intelligence. Even F.B.I. agents feel as if they have been wasting their time rummaging through library cards and tracing numbers that turn out to be Pizza Huts.

Maybe they could make an argument that it's worth bending the Constitution into a balloon elephant if we were getting Osama's area code and smashing his connections. We don't even bother to raise the terror alarm anymore when the Qaeda mass murderer releases a tape. The scare-level color code was a more useful tool before the 2004 election.

I just don't get why it's so hard to find Osama. So what if he's in what is often described as "the impossibly rugged mountain terrain" of Pakistan? We send people to the Moon, and W. wants to send someone to Mars. What's more impossibly rugged terrain than that?

If we can brave Big Brother, we could probably find Osama's lair on Google Earth (but not Dick Cheney's - it's censored).

The White House has always seemed less compelled to capture Osama than to use him as a pretext for invading Iraq and as a political selling point. Karl Rove, coming out of his "please don't indict me" crouch, tried to chase away the taint of the Abramoff scandal with a new round of terror-mongering for 2006: "We need a commander in chief and a Congress who understand the nature of the threat and the gravity of this moment. President Bush and the Republican Party do. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for many Democrats."

So why did the White House set aside the gravest threat of all?